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Virginia Secretary of Education visits GEAR UP students

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Standing for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, GEAR UP is a federal grant program that provides educational support from a student’s eighth grade year to their first year of college. HCPS was awarded this grant three years ago, primarily for the class of 2020. Counselor Rachel Linden has been one of the main coordinators for the high school’s GEAR UP program. From planning lunch events to inviting college students to help underclassmen out, Linden has seen the program assist students.

“GEAR UP is to support students in their journey to access post secondary education. HCPS was chosen because we have a high demographic of students who are seen as underrepresented in education. The goal is to increase the number of underrepresented first generation college students going on to higher [education]” Linden said.

Junior Cam’Ron Stuart is one of the students who’s involved with many of the GEAR UP activities. For Stuart, the academic help is what he finds the most important.

“It helps gives us time to do our homework. We have mentors. We can go on JMU campus and follow the mentors to their classes. One day, they had us follow their footsteps; we were actually like a college students going to classes,” Stuart said.

This year, National GEAR UP week is Sept. 24 through Sept. 28. The program at the high school has taken initiative by hosting activities during lunch and dressing up for certain days. Thursday, Sept. 27 was college apparel day for the GEAR UP students.

One of the main events for National GEAR UP week was the visitation from Virginia Secretary of Education, Atif Qarni. A selected few GEAR UP students had the opportunity to meet with Qarni for a discussion about what the federal grant program has done for them.

“I wanted to meet with the students who were part of GEAR UP to see what the program is like and all the great things it’s doing and how from a state perspective, we can help the program,” Qarni said.

With the title he holds, Qarni has been all over the state. From the southwest and southside to the valley and tidewater, Qarni has seen diversity in multiple schools, HHS being one of them.

“It was great to see so many talented students. I’m very excited to see where they will be at in their careers,” Qarni said.

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Virginia Secretary of Education visits GEAR UP students